Tuesday, January 12, 2010
If you picked up the latest issue of Ramen Walker magazine, you'll see Ikebukuro has quite a few ramen shops. Living nearby Ikebukuro, this is very advantageous for my taste buds (but quite detrimental to my weight!) Like a moth to a lamp, I can never resist the siren call of the many ramen shops dotting Ikebukuro. One ramen institution will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary come December this year. That ramen chain is Kohmen Ramen, though it is often spelled Komen as well. Kohmen's first shop opened on the south side of Ikebukuro though I haven't tried this shop yet, I have eaten at the Kohmen on the west side of Ikebukuro Station, which opened shop in 2002.
Kohmen's menu is in Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English, making it a convenient place to eat at for those who find Japanese isn't their strongest suit. A copy of their menu can be found here. The English used is interesting as it seems it was put through a computerized translater or a native English speaker did not do the translation. My favorite is the translation of tantanmen: "painful ramen of sesame flavor." I ordered the tonkotsu ramen (or as the menu puts it "pig's bone broth ramen") and Micah ordered the tantanmen.
Kohmen's tonkotsu ramen
When we ordered our food, the waiter informed us that the shop was giving costumers a free gift of food. He showed us a laminated strip of paper with pictures of the three gifts you could choose from: an extra helping of noodles, an extra egg, or a purin (dessert pudding.) Micah chose the extra egg and I opted for extra noodles. The extra noodles certainly made a difference! By the time I finished everything, I felt that my stomach was about to burst!
About halfway done and there's still so many noodles left!
I find the tonkotsu broth to be a cut about most places. It's less creamy than Ippudo's tonkotsu broth, but still quite delicious. The taste isn't too heavy, but it's heavier than cheaper chain ramen shops. The toppings included are negi (spring onions), chashu (barbequed pork), menma (bamboo shoots), and spinach. The spinach is an interesting touch. Kohmen is a Tokyo-based chain which may explain the spinach which is more commonly found in Tokyo-style ramen than the ramen of other regions of Japan. Most notable of the toppings was the menma. Typical ramen menma is rather firm and thin but Kohmen's menma was quite thick and less firm providing a new interesting texture to the ramen.
Micah tastes his first sip of the tantanmen broth.
An interesting thing about the two story ramen restaurant is its setup. All booths come equipped with a TV screen displaying movie advertisements, book reviews, and blurbs on the various other locations of Kohmen in Harajuku, Shinjuku, Roppongi, Ebisu, Ueno, Akihabara, and Takadanobaba. The ramen chefs all work on the first floor. A tiny elevator system is installed in the middle of the restaurant to send steaming hot bowls of ramen to the hungry customers on the second floor.
Micah enjoys his tantanmen as the TV plays in the background.
At Kohmen, you can probably get away with spending less than 1000 yen (around $10 USD) for a bowl of ramen. This is about average for the quality you're getting. There are many good shops in Ikebukuro, with its multilingual menu Kohmen is a good starting place for someone new to ramen. Micah and I both left Kohmen happy with full warm bellies, ready to face the cold for the 20 minute walk back to our apartment.
Nishi-Ikebukuro 1-22-6 1,2F
Open 11-5am, Sun through Thurs
Open 11-6am, Fri and Sat, nat'l hoidays